Characterizing airborne fungal and bacterial concentrations and emission rates in six occupied children's classrooms

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Abstract

Baseline information on size-resolved bacterial, fungal, and particulate matter (PM) indoor air concentrations and emission rates is presented for six school classrooms sampled in four countries. Human occupancy resulted in significantly elevated airborne bacterial (81 times on average), fungal (15 times), and PM mass (nine times) concentrations as compared to vacant conditions. Occupied indoor/outdoor (I/O) ratios consistently exceeded vacant I/O ratios. Regarding size distributions, average room-occupied bacterial, fungal, and PM geometric mean particle sizes were similar to one another while geometric means estimated for bacteria, fungi, and PM mass during vacant sampling were consistently lower than when occupied. Occupancy also resulted in elevated indoor bacterial-to-PM mass-based and number-based ratios above corresponding outdoor levels. Mean emission rates due to human occupancy were 14 million cells/person/h for bacteria, 14 million spore equivalents/person/h for fungi, and 22 mg/person/h for PM mass. Across all locations, indoor emissions contributed 83 ± 27% (bacteria), 66 ± 19% (fungi), and 83 ± 24% (PM mass) of the average indoor air concentrations during occupied times.

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